Types of Addiction
- Illicit drugs
- Prescription medications
- Excessive exercise
- Adrenaline junkies
- Emotional abuse
- Poor relationship choices
- Self-destructive behavior
What is the common theme in the list? Regardless of what you are "using", it is the reasons for the use that link all those addictions. When you are using something for a purpose that it is not designed for, and it begins to fill a need that it is not designed to fill, then that could be considered an addiction.
Do you smoke out of boredom?
Do you eat ice cream to drown your sorrows?
Are you getting your doctor to renew your prescription to your pain medication despite the fact that your knee no longer hurts?
Are you staying in an abusive relationship because it validates your low self-esteem?
Are you using alcohol because you can’t face the pain you carry from years of abuse as a child?
If you’ll notice, I listed sugar and caffeine right at the top. These are the most socially acceptable, most chronically used, and among the most difficult drugs to stop using. Do not underestimate the power of these drugs.
Ask yourself, how do I use any of the above addictions? Is there a healthier way of satisfying that need?
Addiction can swallow someone whole. It can be subtle and hard to notice in even your best friend or partner. Or it can be obvious as it consumes your entire being. Make no mistake, that no matter the presentation, addiction is a condition of the Body, the Mind and the Spirit.
With each substance comes its own physiologic expression of imbalance. But the common element is that most have to be processed by the Liver, the Kidneys and the Gastro-Intestinal systems in order to be broken down and excreted from the body. In the early stages of use, signs and symptoms may only be slight and subtle—sleep patterns change, digestion gets compromised, etc. But over time the toxic load increases, and we begin to present with more obvious disturbances to our bodies—our appearance changes, insomnia sets in, blood pressure increases, withdrawal symptoms ensue when you stop using even briefly, etc.
There are times when these imbalances can be measured by your physician in a blood test—elevated Liver enzymes, for example. This is an advanced form of dis-ease and is in serious need of treatment.
But in the absence of these measurable results, would you consider yourself “healthy?” In conventional Western Medicine, health is considered as the absence of disease. In Complementary Medicine with Chinese Medicine as an important part, there is every shade of imbalance in between that needs to be addressed. Through a thorough history and intake, a Chinese Medicine and acupuncture practitioner can evaluate how your addiction is both a reflection of and a result of your physiological patterns of imbalance. In the initial stage of treatment, through the use of a well-researched and proven 5-point ear acupuncture protocol, I focus on helping you get through the early stages of detox and craving cessation. Then, we begin to address the necessary and most effective means of re-balancing and cleansing your body so you may once again achieve wellness and optimal health.
We have all heard the term dry "drunk". When you overcome your addiction without addressing your physical health, there is a greater tendency to continue to struggle with sobriety. You may have even been in therapy and truly identified the reasons for your addiction; you may have attended meetings and felt tremendously supported by your community, including your family and friends. But if your body is not given a chance to reclaim its own health, then the very imbalances that were cultivated during your use remain entrenched acting as a powerful magnet enticing you to relapse. For example, it is not uncommon for alcoholics to continue to crave the sugar they got from drinking even after they get sober. If this is not addressed, in times of stress will they go for the donut or that tantalizing old friend, the scotch on the rocks with beads of sweat glistening on the glass?
Substituting one addiction for another still makes you an addict. Addressing the sugar cravings can eliminate the old triggers that drove you to drink in the first place and could continue to drive you to drink if they are not treated.
Why do you use? Addicts can be extremely attentive and aware of what they use, when they use, and how they use. But until the Why is deeply answered, the addiction will continue, substance or no substance. Sobriety without this kind of self-awareness becomes an external structure that you may reluctantly impose upon yourself. Let’s be clear, though: it is absolutely necessary to do so in the short-term to begin your path toward freedom, but your long-term success, your forever losing the Scarlet "A" of "Addict" emblazoned on your chest, originates from figuring out Why you use. The role of a Chinese Medicine and acupuncture practitioner in this part of your recovery is not to help you resolve these issues; that is the place for a skilled psycho-therapist who specializes in addiction. Instead, I serve to connect your experience of your physical body with that of your mental and emotional body. For example, in Chinese Medicine each organ system has its own emotional state associated with it. Grief is stored in the Lungs; anger and resentment are stored in the Liver; fear resides in the Kidneys.
Let’s take nicotine use. Smokers tend to be shallow breathers in general. The only time they may actually take a deep breath is when they drag on their cigarette. Not only are they getting the rush of nicotine into their brains, but also the relaxation and relief that come with the deep breath. And in many traditional cultures, smoke is used to cleanse. Do you smoke to exorcise the ghosts of grief from your lungs? Did you experience a loss in your family at the same time you developed asthma as a kid? When your grief gets triggered, do you light up?
One of my greatest treatment priorities is to help cultivate awareness in my patients of their intentions behind all their choices from the food they eat and the relationships they choose, to the substances they abuse. When the Why is answered, the what when and how become much easier to address. And my work in detoxing your body and calming your heart and mind becomes much more productive and fruitful.
Addicts are, very often, playing out a crisis of spirit. At the point in their lives that they began using, in many situations, they experienced some degree of significant stress or trauma that they were unable to fully process. The event could have been a one-time occurrence or an on-going one. Either way, they did not have the proper tools to cope or understand how to deal with their feelings. This is similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But in the case of addiction, the person did the best they could to numb out the pain and spiritual confusion through substance abuse.
In the course of treatment, working together with the patient’s therapist, we seek to bring them back into a more direct relationship with their body. In Chinese Medicine, each organ system has its own Spirit associated with it. For example, the Spirit of the Lung is called the Corporeal Soul; this is one’s physical experience in their body. When we experience fear or danger, our first response is often to hold our breath. Imagine a child, through fear of abuse, not being able to breathe deeply through out their childhood. Asthma, decreased immunity, allergies, frequent colds and flu’s could all result and continue into adulthood. Through treatment we would work to clear and then support the Lungs so the patient may finally process the grief they had stored for many years and return to a more engaged relationship with their physical body.
When a patient comes to me to help them get clean and sober, I offer them a calm port in the storm. I recognize the chaos that an addict’s life can hold, which can even get worse as they get sober. Let my treatment rooms be their place to come and get help, to be nourished and supported, and to simply rest.
Recovery requires support. In addition to regular and frequent acupuncture treatments, I put them on an herbal and nutritional program, encourage mild daily cardio exercise and, as needed, I introduce them to a team of valued addiction specialists: a Western Medical physician, a psycho-therapist, a hypnotherapist, a bodyworker and a chiropractor. And I strongly encourage attending group meetings. We are strongest and get the best results when we all work together for the health and well-being of our patients. I believe this no matter what condition a patient walks in the door with and it is never truer than in the case of addiction.
©Jordan Hoffman, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, 2009. All Rights Reserved.
The information presented here is not medical advice, is not intended as medical advice, and is intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture and is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of this information.